I have been looking forward to seeing Elsinore live pretty much since the final notes of the last set I saw them perform — but especially since they released their new album, PUSH/PULL on October 8. And I am happy to report that their set at Subterranean on Friday night surpassed my expectations by far. Brighton, MA opened the show with a laid-back, old-fashioned rock and roll sound that emanated a strong, but less obviously-catchy Strokes vibe. Their energy grew as they played through their set, getting everybody pumped for the following acts, including Chicago natives, Hemmingbirds, who tried to keep Halloween alive with a cover of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” and a fast paced pop-rock set.
There were a few things I was curious to see from Elsinore at this show: their new line-up (they gained a new bass player and drummer since the last time I saw them) and the killer five-piece brass section they’d brought to Chicago, including two trumpets, tenor sax, baritone sax, and trombone. They started the set with “The Art Of Pulling,” the first track off of the new album. This song is genius. It sets up the entire album with a fresh, poppy sound that is lyrically enticing and brilliant, but not too showy, and this is just the first song. The whole album is awesome from start to finish — a fact that the crowd got to witness. Elsinore played PUSH/PULL in its entirety, mixing in oldies and goodies along the way, including “Lines” off of their full-length record, 2010’s “YES YES YES,” as well the title track from their EP, Chemicals, which is one of my favorites.
I was particularly excited to hear the new version of “Ultraviolence” live. The tune’s rebirth on PUSH/PULL has such a different sound than the original recording, trading out elegant strings for an energized and upbeat spin that, to my surprise, I love equally as much. Though I suppose it’s not too surprising, as I am fairly certain I couldn’t resist anything that Ryan Groff writes or sings. His simply gorgeous voice enslaves, leaving listeners hanging on his every word, with what seems like little to no effort. Seriously, it makes you want to pull an Ursala on him and wear his voice in a shell around your neck (creepy and true). And it’s refreshing to watch a singer who can play just as well as he sings. On lead guitar, Groff owns his instrument. The band matched Groff’s energy well. With heavy, buzzy, and precise bass playing from Brad Threlkeld and spot-on drums from James Treichler, the new rhythm section was tight as can be. Founding member Mark Woolwine held it all together on the keys, adding layers of sound and harmonies with his Nord Electro, and funky synthy riffs on his Mini-Korg. The transitions between songs were impeccably smooth. Even when Groff busted a guitar string and switched out guitars, just before they slid into “Life Inside An Elephant,” the closing track on PUSH/PULL, it all seemed like part of the plan and the perfect ending to an amazing set.
Clearly, I could go on and on for days about how fantastic Elsinore is, but ain’t nobody got time for that. If you haven’t listened to Elsinore yet, do yourself a favor and check out “The Art Of Pulling,” along with the rest of their album, merch, and tour dates here.